For years, the holidays made me feel frazzled, over-extended, stressed about doing everything just like we’d always done it (can’t mess with tradition!), certain that Aunt Barbara* was going to comment on my weight, and terrified I was either going to eat ALL the things OR miss out on eating any of the good things.
This was NOT the holiday spirit I was aiming for, unless “spirit” is a synonym for anxiety! (Pro tip: It most emphatically is not.)
*not her real name. ;)
Guess what? It doesn’t have to be this way!
How do I know? Because I've been trying to get a grip on reclaiming my holidays for years and I think I've finally figured it out.
Here is my 5 (sort of simple) step strategy for reclaiming YOUR holiday spirit and arriving on January 1 feeling calm, satisfied, and optimistic about the year ahead, rather than frazzled, deeply in debt, or desperately searching for a detox-keto-bootcamp-starvation weight loss miracle.
1) STOP SAYING YES TO EVERRRRYTHING
Note: When I say "Yes to everything" I wish I just meant all the glamorous party invites. I don't know about you, but that is not my life!😅
What I'm talking about is saying yes to everyone else's preferences and priorities.
Just because your family has ALWAYS done things a certain way does NOT mean it's set in stone forever and always.
I was caught in this trap as well so I know that breaking free from tradition can feel awkward. It's also liberating beyond measure.
It requires figuring out what's meaningful to you and what's more stressful than enjoyable (i.e. packing the kids up Christmas morning and trooping to the in-laws when you really want to stay home and start Christmas morning peacefully).
It requires being willing to have some heartfelt (and sometimes hard) conversations where you communicate your intentions. Most of the time, others are more amenable to changes than we think they will be.
Occasionally, they are not.
Be kind but don't default to being a people pleaser.
It seems ridiculous to have to say this, but we DESERVE to have a say in how we live our lives, full stop.
2) ASK YOUR FAMILY WHAT THEY CARE ABOUT MOST
You may be surprised that the holiday traditions your family truly value aren’t the time-consuming, labor intensive, or expensive ones you think they’ll be.
Prioritize the ones they care most about and let go of some of the extras.
Use the time you save to take care of yourself. This will do more for restoring your holiday spirit than building another gingerbread house or thinking up new and zany Elf on the Shelf antics!
3) DON’T GO INTO MASSIVE DEBT (OR, PREFERABLY, ANY)
Most of us have everything we need, including our kids.
Gifts are supposed to be meaningful tokens of our affection, not an exchange of goods and services. Give homemade treats, a gift basket of small, fun goodies, or a gift certificate for a meal or manicure together. Experiences are much more meaningful than stuff in most instances.
(Side rant: Don't get me started on kids asking for gift cards or money when asked what’s on their wish list. There are instances where this may be appropriate but, at the moment, I can't think of any.)
4) DON’T GO TO EXTREMES WITH FOOD (OR ALCOHOL)
Don’t treat this holiday season as if:
A) It were your last one ever and you'll never get another grape jelly lil smokie, chocolate truffle, or candy cane martini. It isn’t and you can get the experience without having to over-indulge just because it’s free or because you think you’re on some mythical “free pass” until January 1.
B) This is a test of your perfect willpower and not ONE fleck of sugar will pass thine hallowed lips no matter how much someone tries to tempt you. RELAX.
Both of these approaches often lead to boomerang eating and an unhealthy relationship with food (overindulge... restrict.... rinse...repeat!).
Find a middle ground. Be choosy about your indulgences, make sure they’re worth it (i.e. probably not store bought almond bark pretzels), and SAVOR EVERY LAST MORSEL.*.
NOTE: I will be making my gluten free caramel pecan sticky buns, as I do every year. You can rest assured I will be enjoying the heck out of some of these delectable calorie bombs! I will not, however, be going to town on Christmas M&M’s and other non-special treats. I’ll share that recipe in a few days. :)
5) SCHEDULE AND COMMUNICATE DOWNTIME
Schedule downtime by putting it into the calendar and letting those in your orbit know about it.
Definition: Downtime is unstructured time where you're free to breathe and do whatever you want or nothing at all.
I'll be honest, I have to schedule downtime when no one is home OR I have to be elsewhere. If I'm home with the family, they will almost always find a way to wheedle into my downtime regardless of how firm I think my boundaries are (#squishy 😂)
NEWSFLASH: The holidays are supposed to be JOYFUL!
Somehow, I think we can lose sight of the fact that we’re supposed to be connecting, having some fun, and laughing this time of year. Hopefully, I’ve given you some ideas for putting a bit of the “festive” back in your holiday festivities!